It’s now been nearly four months since Scottish Mediation launched its expert group report, Bringing Mediation into the Mainstream in Scottish Civil Justice.
In that time, we have held seminars, published articles that have engaged with a range of different bodies to both explain the report in depth and also to listen to what people think about the ideas we are proposing. I am delighted that the Scottish Government has committed, in its Programme for Government, to responding to the report by the end of the year.
During this time we have also been talking to Margaret Mitchell MSP, chair of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, who has consulted on a proposed Mediation Bill. As you might expect, as mediators, we have been seeking to identify common ground and areas where our proposals are complementary in order to see how we might work together.
In our ‘I want it now’ world, this might seem like slow progress, but I am encouraged at how things are developing, and the positive responses our proposals, and indeed Margaret’s, have received. One thing I know from mediations that I have carried out is that it often takes time for people to be able to listen to each other and understand where they are both coming from before looking to the future. I think this is also the case with our proposals.
By talking to people about our proposals, I have also been focusing on why we want a step change in the use of mediation. The ability to come up with solutions tailored to those involved, in an informal and relatively quick process, are views that are shared by many that we have talked to. The feedback given has encouraged us to continue our consultations and awareness raising about our report.
We are now arranging to visit more organisations and hold seminars and symposiums to allow an even wider consideration of our proposals. If you would like to be involved in that discussion let us know, as we are interested in meeting people and organisations and to continue those conversations.
Whatever happens with our expert group proposals, and Margaret Mitchell’s proposed Bill, I am sure that there will be a need to widen our conversations.
To that end we are launching Mediation2020 – Turning Disagreement into Opportunity, a year of events focusing on mediation. This is being devised by a range of organisations interested in mediation and will see various events across Scotland during the year. We will showcase how mediation works in different areas of Scottish life and highlight the positive impact it makes.
At the beginning of Mediation2020 we will also launch the Scottish Mediation Charter.
This is an opportunity for organisations across Scotland to show they support mediation. It recognises that mediation and mediative approaches lead to more productive relationships, better governance and an inclusive culture.
This is partly because the way mediation works is creative, maintains and restores relationships and provides long term solutions. It can also be timely, affordable and an empowering way of resolving disagreements.
To sign up to the charter, organisations need to commit to exploring the use of mediation when disputes arise, inserting mediation clauses in contracts where appropriate and promoting mediation to staff, including the spreading of mediation skills that allow them to constructively resolve disagreements. The initiative also supports one of the main recommendations of our expert group report, which was that a cultural shift is needed to encourage the use of mediation.
Whilst Mediation2020 and the Scottish Mediation Charter will be important parts of that cultural shift we will also look to other ways of supporting this.
We already engage with organisations across Scotland on a sector by sector basis and we will look to expand on this work. We will also take our learning from what has worked so far and in doing so see what different needs each sector brings.
If you or your organisation would like to be involved in either of these initiatives, please let us know as we’d be delighted to talk to you and find out how we can help.
Graham Boyack, director, Scottish Mediation.